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The Walt Disney Co. is fighting back against Nelson Peltz, the activist investor waging a proxy battle against the company, seeking a board seat and a say in the company’s strategy.
On Tuesday, Disney released a slideshow outlining its argument against Peltz, writing that the Trian Management CEO “does not understand Disney’s businesses, and lacks the skills and experience to assist the board in delivering shareholder value in a rapidly shifting media ecosystem.”
But Disney also acknowledged that some of the things Peltz is pushing for are already taking place, including implementing a cost-reduction plan and “streamlining our organizational structure to enhance productivity”; “prioritizing streaming profitability (in addition to revenue and subscriber growth)”; and “improving the guest experience” at its theme parks by providing “more value and flexibility.”
Peltz had argued that Disney needed to cut costs and focus on profitability, and that it was “overearning” in its theme parks division at the expense of other business lines.
Disney’s board also pushed back on Peltz’s criticism of Iger, noting that during the course of Iger’s entire run as CEO of Disney, the company significantly outperformed its peers and the S&P 500. Disney also argued that Iger’s major acquisitions were labeled as being “too expensive” when the company completed them, only for them to be proven right later on.
In the case of the 21st Century Fox deal, Disney noted not only the Marvel characters it received, but The Simpsons, Family Guy, Modern Family, Avatar, Hulu and Fox’s lucrative international businesses as well.
Disney also noted that the one media-adjacent company whose board Peltz has sat on, MSG Sports, has lagged the S&P 500 since he joined it in 2014.
The company also used Peltz’s CNBC interview against him, with Peltz admitting that he “is not an expert” in theme parks and suggesting that Disney may need to get out of the streaming business (with no indication of what the company should be pursuing instead).
Disney’s pushback is an indication that the company will not acquiesce to Peltz, and could be the first step in what may be a bruising proxy fight, as Peltz goes direct to Disney shareholders to advocate for his seat.
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